An English Westerners' Society Publication


An Indian Called 'Wounded Knee'

Miss Viola Clemmons and the White Lily Company in

England & Wales, 1891-92


Tom F. Cunningham


White Lily handbill for the Grand Theatre, Nottingham, September 1891

(Courtesy Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyoming, USA - MS61.1.D.OS1.01)


The American actress Katherine Viola Clemmons toured the provincial theatres of England and Wales for four months during 1891 - 92 with The White Lily, a pioneering production in the evolution of the Western genre.

Viola’s dramatic career, although ultimately a monumental failure, could not have been accomplished at all without the patronage and comprehensive backing of Colonel W. F. 'Buffalo Bill' Cody, who was simultaneously engaged on a tour of Great Britain with his Wild West Show. The most compelling element in this dramatic spectacular was a band of ten authentic Lakota Indians, whose recruitment from Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota, was facilitated by Buffalo Bill.

The White Lily has generally been ignored by Cody scholars but it now emerges as not merely a side issue but rather an indispensable component in the story of Buffalo Bill's momentous 1891 – 92 season, in which several key figures from the previous winter's turbulent events on Pine Ridge Reservation took part. Recently rediscovered press coverage and other archive sources cast considerable light upon the at times harrowing personal experiences of the Lakota participants, as well as upon Buffalo Bill's own movements during this time and the truth about the precise nature of his entanglement with Viola.

In the process, the outrageously mendacious manner in which the tragic train of events culminating in the previous December's infamous slaughter at Wounded Knee was shamelessly rebranded and placed before the British public as the entertainment sensation of the age is highlighted now as never before.

So far as can be determined, this is the first occasion on which a full listing of the White Lily Company's British dates and venues has been made available in published form.

English Westerners' Society Brand Book Volume 45, No. 2 &  3

Price £5.20 ($10.50) to Subscribing Members of EWS includes postage and packaging.

Price £5.20 ($10.50) to Non Subscribing Members through EWS excludes postage and packaging.

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